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4 Things to Consider when Marketing to the LGBT Community
You've decided to start marketing to the LGBT community, which is a great idea, for many reasons. According to an analysis by Witeck Communications, the estimated nine million people who identify as LGBT in the United States had a staggering buying power of $917 billion in 2015, the most of any minority group. That's an opportunity no brand should be passing up.
When creating an LGBT marketing plan, however, there are certain factors companies need to consider. While as a country we've made great strides in cutting down discriminatory practices and opening up opportunities for conversation with the community, there's still much more work to be done before we can say equality has been achieved. So what does that mean for marketers? Simply, for brands to convert LGBT consumers, they must acknowledge these barriers in their strategy, in their workplace and beyond.
If you're looking to include the LGBT community in your marketing plan, you must balance outreach with authenticity. Before starting, be sure to address these four critical questions.
1. What is your company's real goal?
Sure, a successful LGBT marketing campaign will help establish inclusion as a fundamental value of your company. But your campaign must also serve a clear objective beyond simple audience outreach. Before you pitch the campaign, let alone start working on it, you should ask: Why?
The reason might be immediate, like reaching a quarterly sales goal by incentivizing LGBT customers, or long-term, like increasing market share among the LGBT community. The point is, your campaign should align with a very specific business goal.
To help determine how close your planned initiative will get you to your goals, work with your marketing team to address these questions:
- What demographic within the LGBT community are you targeting and why?
- How will you reach this audience?
- How does your industry fit within this market niche?
- What are your expectations of this campaign?
- What are your revenue targets?
- What does success look like and what methods will you use to measure it?
These are straightforward questions for which your stakeholders will want decisive answers. Remember, the more defined your goal is the more effective your LGBT marketing campaign will be.
2. Does your company walk the walk?
You could have a killer campaign, but if your company doesn't reflect inclusive values, you'll find it hard to succeed, not only with this demographic, but with most others, too. According to Community Marketing & Insights (CMI) 78% of adults and their friends, families and relatives would switch to brands that are known to be LGBT-friendly. In other words, if you want to grow your customer base, it's not enough to simply send signals; your company's workplace environment must match its public profile.
Every year, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) releases a Corporate Equality Index that rates workplaces on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. HRC assesses companies' non-discrimination policies, codes of conduct, equal benefits, organizational competency and public commitment. CEI scores, which range from 1-100, have become an industry standard that LGBT consumers use to judge a company's awareness and dedication to workplace equality and their community at large.
While your company might not fall under HRC's microscope, you can use elements of their assessment to examine your own organization. Work with your HR team to answer the following:
- Does my company have non-discrimination policies in place and are they honored?
- Are there sexual and gender identity protections?
- Are there equal benefits regardless of sexuality and gender identity?
- Has there been a wide-scale adoption of transgender-inclusive initiatives?
- LGBT customers will want to know your stance on all of these policies before they engage with your marketing campaign.
3. Is upper management on board?
Company leadership should set the tone when it comes to fostering policies and attitudes that lead to authentic LGBT-centric content. When higher management shows commitment, it's easier to unite the entire company around a given message.
That doesn't mean your corner office will know everything they need off the bat. Education is hugely important when it comes to inclusive workplace policy, and that might be doubly true at the top of the hierarchy. The best way to get exec buy in is with informative sessions in which they (and other team members) can hear and learn from members of the LGBT community and/or LGBT employees. Afterwards, these leaders can help set company-wide goals and direct select staff to execute on further education.
At the end of the day, LGBT-friendly workplace policy and executive support is critical to your campaign's success, but it may take initiative by your team to help the brass set the right tone.
4. Can you supplement with cause marketing?
Companies with successful LGBT campaigns are increasingly demonstrating their support outside of the business sphere. For many businesses, investing in an LGBT event or cause is an easy way to show commitment to the community. This may involve sponsoring a float in a pride parade or putting resources behind LGBT nonprofits like GLAAD, It Gets Better or The Trevor Project.
For larger companies with more resources, a new form of support has cropped up in standing up to anti-LGBT legislation. For example, when North Carolina considered passing the Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act (commonly referred to as HB 2 or the “bathroom bill"), which required individuals to use restrooms and changing facilities that correspond to the sex on their birth certificates in March 2016, PayPal threatened to walk away from a $3.6-million investment and 400 jobs in the state. Dozens of other businesses joined, including Bank of America, Deutsche Bank and CoStar Group.
Forfeiting that kind of investment is certainly not for everyone, but the point is, cause marketing of all kinds reveals to LGBT customers that they are not simply valued for their money, but as American who deserve equal rights and treatment.
Marketing to the LGBT community is a smart strategic decision for brands that care about both relevance and revenue. But before you launch any initiative, spend time reviewing your company's goals, policies, leadership and out-of-market support. Remember, LGBT marketing requires thoughtfulness, inclusivity and genuine connection. Foster these three elements, and you open up a lucrative and lasting new market.